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Fundraising for Paris COP21 climate change documentary

26 November 2015 - By James Greenland

The "surreal" and "horrifying" terrorist attacks in Paris this month will not deter two Wellington law students from travelling to the COP21 United Nations conference next month where they will observe, analyse, and with your help document, what are expected to be historic climate change negotiations.

"At first, it wasn't clear if we'd still go, or if the conference would be held at all," says Simon Hillier.

"It's quite horrifying, and definitely a weird mix of emotions to grapple with.

"In today's world you get quite desensitised to awful events like the attacks in Paris, but this is the first time I have had a degree of personal connection.

"There was an element of disappointment and anxiety about the trip, and then a degree of guilt, in that I was worrying about my travel plans when so many lives and families are being torn apart."

"Ultimately I feel a bit numb about it to be honest. I am glad COP21 is going ahead, because I think solidarity is important at a time like this. But it's going to be a different atmosphere there for sure."

Like modern terrorism, the climate change problem has no easy answer. There will be a lot going on, a lot of interesting discussion in Paris, a lot to write about, to report on, and to think about, says Simon.

He and fellow member of the "Deconstructing Paris" team Lottie Boardman travel to Paris in December to attend the COP21 conference, which is expected to result in a complex international environmental law agreement that the team hopes to "deconstruct" by creating an informative and accessible documentary video.

A "pledgeme.co.nz" crowd funding website asks for donations to cover the team's filming equipment and professional editing costs.

Aotearoa Youth Leadership Institute's Paris delegation
Victoria University Law students Simon Hillier and Lottie Boardman, right, with other members of the Aotearoa Youth Leadership Institute's Paris delegation.

Deconstructing Paris is a student-led climate change clinic established at Victoria University in March. Members remaining in New Zealand during the conference will upload blogs, and daily analysis to the clinic's website, building on existing information published there throughout 2015 that aims to de-mystify the international legal process and law surrounding COP21.

The negotiators' lofty aim is for the nearly 200 states they represent to reach an agreement on how to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020 to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Simon says the structure of the draft UN treaty to be negotiated is unlike conventions resulting from previous international efforts to stem gas emissions, such as the Kyoto Protocol, with large nations like the USA, China this time around expressing strong interest to conclude a binding agreement.

"This is an incredibly important issue – but also a difficult one to unravel," says Simon.

"Come December, all eyes will be on Paris.

"Hopefully, we will raise the funds needed to properly document - provide as many insights and perspectives as possible – what is set to be an important historic event."

Simon and Lottie are also members of the Aotearoa Youth Leadership Institute, whose COP21 delegation includes seven other young New Zealanders (read more).

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Last updated on the 26th November 2015